How do the Jets keep winning? Well… it’s complicated
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/12/2018 (1507 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
VANCOUVER – It was a fairly simple question, with a more complicated answer.
Less than an hour after the Winnipeg Jets had somehow, someway managed to sneak two points out of San Jose Thursday night – despite seemingly being under siege for long stretches of play – a Sharks reporter approached me in the press box.
He wanted my thoughts on why Winnipeg had looked so overwhelmed at times, the obvious result aside. It was his first up-close viewing this season of the Central Division leaders, and it’s clear he expected to see more from the visitors, especially after they’d fallen to an inspired but lowly Los Angeles club two nights earlier. He wasn’t very impressed by a team that got outshot 44-24 on the night, including 34-12 in the final two periods.
I wasn’t sure what to say, other than to spit out a theory that sounded kind of silly.
“They’re actually pretty comfortable playing like this. That’s just the Jets this season. This is what they’ll do some nights,” I said.
The numbers would appear to back me up. Consider: Winnipeg has now entered the second intermission tied on nine occasions this season. Their record in those games? A perfect 9-0-0. That’s mighty impressive.
How about when they give up the first goal, which is never the preferred way to start a game. Try a more than respectable 11-5-0. (They are 12-5-2 when they score first, meaning the Jets have pretty much the same chance of winning regardless of who opens the scoring)
What about one-goal games? Those must be close to a coin flip, right? Not even close. 9-3-2.
It brought me back to my conversation on Tuesday night at Staples Center with general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, in which we discussed a sweeping range of topics. One of them, naturally, was the on-ice play. It wasn’t just the number of wins his team had racked up (now 23 in 35 games), but how they’ve won them that seemed to most impress the architect of the club.
In addition to coming out on top of those nine deadlocked third-period games, there have been huge comebacks (Dec. 2 vs the New York Rangers) blown leads with recoveries (Oct. 16 vs Edmonton, Oct. 22 vs St. Louis), big bounce-back efforts after poor showings (Nov. 24 vs St. Louis, Dec. 9 vs Philadelphia), gritty efforts with injury depleted lineups (Dec. 4 vs the New York Islanders) and enough overtime heroics to fill a highlight reel (6-2 in the three-on-three session).
And now a new one: A game where they weathered a storm (it may have felt more like a tsunami at times) and still got the W against a red-hot team that is also considered a Stanley Cup contender.
After a wild, wide-open first period in which Winnipeg built a 3-2 lead – courtesy of some major puck luck on both sides of the ice – San Jose took over for the final 40 minutes.
They outshot Winnipeg 20-9 in the middle frame, tying the game with five seconds left in the period. That could have been a dagger. The Jets were THIS close to escaping with the lead intact, but blew it (thanks to some shoddy puckhandling by goalie Connor Hellebuyck).
As the third period got underway, it sure looked like the Jets were on their heels. San Jose continued to dominate zone time and the shot clock, and Winnipeg appeared to be hanging on for dear life, at least trying to get it to overtime and put at least one point in the bank.
But then it all changed in the blink of an eye. One mistake by San Jose in their own zone ended with the puck in the back of the net with just 3:07 left to play, just the second shot of the period by Winnipeg to San Jose’s 14. An empty-netter a couple minutes later sealed the deal.
Was it grand larceny by the Jets? Or just the new Winnipeg way?
I’m leaning towards the latter, especially with the recent history this team has of being able to pull out a win under all kinds of circumstances and adversity.
We’ve seen this play out more than once this season, games they surely would have found ways to lose in past seasons that are turning out much differently now.
I suggest it bodes well for a team that has major playoff aspirations.
They already received plenty of valuable experience by going three rounds deep last year. And they are on their way to being “battle-tested” by the time spring arrives this season.
Not wilting under pressure, not crumbling at the first sign of distress and being able to come through in the clutch are all traits that championship teams typically possess.
Of course, I must note the Jets have let a handful of points slip away, including a few notable botched third-period leads they didn’t recover from (Oct. 27 vs Toronto, Nov. 23 vs Minnesota).
But they never seem to let what should be painful losses linger, and they have yet to drop more than two games in a row through nearly the first half of the year.
There’s a resiliency, a resolve to this club that isn’t always pretty. And certainly not for the faint of heart for those who have a rooting interest.
But in a results-oriented business it’s proving to be mighty effective.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.